A look at the early life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas
Ataul Fatir Tahir, Al Hakam
Most twenty-year-olds embark on their journey to circumnavigate the world of “opportunity”; seeking careers, social status, work promotions, and financial independency.
The impulsive and rather rash years of being a teenager fade and the adulthood of finding one’s footing in the world sinks in – especially with those in their late twenties. Where the norm profusely struggles in the rat-race of worldly pursuits, prophets of God take another route.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, a prophet of God, peace be upon him, was no different; born in British India circa 1835, his childhood, teenage years and adulthood never set eyes on wealth or social status; his passion greatly differed to the norm.
The Promised Messiah’sas familial roots were from well-respected and affluent Persian heritage (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p. 2) and his father, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Murtaza was well-acquainted with the world around him, often sending the young Hazrat Ahmadas to represent him in court cases; a task that was not preferred by Hazrat Ahmadas and only pursued out of respect for his father.
The views of father and son regarding work and profession differed, as his father, naturally, desired for his son to have a respected career and be set in life financially, a passion that the young Ahmadas did not share.
As the mutiny of 1857 had just ended and working for the British Government would set one up for life, Hazrat Ahmad’sas father had the resources and networking to acquire a governmental job for his son.
Despite knowing this, Hazrat Ahmadas grew up as a youth who gave his love to studying Islam and religion; he would spend hours on end in his father’s library studying, to the extent that his father had to stop him. (Seerat Masih-e-Maudas, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II, p. 11)
Talking of his passion to read during his adolescence, Ahmadas wrote, “In those days I was so engrossed in books as if I was absent from the world. My father continuously advised not to read so much as, out of great sympathy, he worried for my health.” (Kitab-ul-Bariyya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, p.181)
His reading lists were not limited to Islamic literature and as British India was a cauldron of faiths, he read widely into contemporary religions. His study of the Holy Quran was also relentless and he would carry a copy, on which he took notes, reading the same copy about “ten-thousand times”. (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p.13).
It was not merely education that this youngster was inclined to. Like the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas was a youth ever inclined to worship and prayer – his father famously calling him a “maseetar”, someone who spends their time in a mosque, praying and reciting the Quran. (Hayat-e-Tayiba, p.13)
Throughout his teenage and adolescent years, Ahmadas developed a deep and intimate connection with God Almighty. This connection had sprung from his love of the Holy Prophetsa. Generally speaking, as a teenager, he spent his time in self-study and prayer.
“My time has come” – A spiritually charged youth
During his years as a student, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad experienced remarkable visions and dreams.
It is noteworthy that even his father, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Murtaza saw the Holy Prophetsa arriving at his house in great majesty (Kitab-ul-Bariyya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, p. 190). “This was an indication towards the second coming of the Holy Prophetsa” that was to occur through his own son. (Hayat-e-Ahmad, Vol. 1, p. 104)
As mentioned, Allah began to communicate with the Promised Messiahas very early on. One dream, in which he met the Holy Prophetsa, indicated his revolutionary future. Talking of the incident, the Promised Messiahas narrated:
“My humble self saw Hazrat Khatam-ul-Anbiya [Seal of all the Prophets], may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in a dream in 1864 or 1865 in my early youth [this was an estimate and was most probably earlier, said Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra] when I was still pursuing my studies. In my dream, I had in my hand a religious book, which I felt was my own writing. Upon seeing the book, the Holy Prophetsa enquired from me in Arabic, ‘How have you named this book?’ I submitted, ‘I have named it Qutbi.’ The interpretation of this name has now come to my mind on the publication of this well-publicised book [Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya] that it is a book, which, in its reasoning and arguments, is firm and unshakeable like the polar star. Presenting the firmness of the contents of this book, I have issued a challenge and announced the award of a prize of 10,000 rupees [for anyone who might be able to refute it]. In short, the Holy Prophetsa took that book from me. The moment the blessed hands of the Holy Prophetsa touched it, it became an attractive and lovely fruit resembling a guava, but as large as a watermelon.
“When the Holy Prophetsa started cutting it into pieces to distribute it, it yielded so much honey that his blessed hand and forearm began to drip with it. Then, a dead body that was lying outside the door came to life as a miracle of the Holy Prophetsa.”
The Promised Messiahas further described the dream and concluded:
“To summarise, the Holy Prophetsa handed me a piece of the fruit so that I might give it to the newly revived person, and he bestowed upon me all the remaining pieces. I gave that one piece to the revived person, which he ate immediately. When he finished eating it, I noticed that the blessed chair of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, had risen much higher and the countenance of the Holy Prophetsa began to shine forth like rays of the sun, which was an indication of the revival and progress of Islam. While watching this display of light, I woke up. Allah be praised for all of this.” (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part III, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 1, pp. 274-276)
Another magnificent dream of the Promised Messiah’sas youth was described in the following words by him:
“In early youth, when one’s natural inclination is towards play and sport, I saw in my dream that I entered a house in which there were several people, who were my servants and attendants. I said to them, ‘Set up my house and clean up my bed for my time has come.’ Then I woke up in fear of my life, as the impression on my mind was that I was about to die.” (Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 5, p. 548)
Commenting on this dream, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra, a great scholar of Islam and the Promised Messiah’sas son, said, “From the words, ‘My time has come,’ the Promised Messiahas understood that he was about to die. However, as subsequent events showed, it meant that the time of his being commissioned as a reformer was imminent. This interpretation is also supported by another of his revelations [in Persian] ‘Tread joyfully that your time has arrived.’ Allah knows best.” (Tadhkirah, English, p.7)
This was only a taste of what was to come for the young Ahmadas; God was about to shower this man with such communion that the world had not witnessed since the Holy Prophetsa.
A down-to-earth young adult
Hazrat Ahmadas grew up neither worried about worldly wants, nor concerned for superficial respect. He was a man of the people and desired no special treatment, rank or office.
A servant of his, Mirza Ismail Baig Sahib, who would accompany Hazrat Ahmadas to court cases his father would send him to, testified to the Promised Messiah’sas humility.
He explained that whenever they would embark on a journey towards the court, Hazrat Ahmadas “would begin to walk on foot and have me on the horse”. Ismail Baig Sahib said that he would endlessly tell the Promised Messiahas to sit on the horse and said that he felt embarrassed riding on a horse while he walked. However, the Promised Messiahas, in reply, would tell him, “I am not embarrassed by walking, so why are you embarrassed to ride?” Halfway through, the Promised Messiahas would swap positions and ride the horse and when returning, would ask Ismail Baig to ride the horse first. (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p.16)
Another youth who began spending time with Hazrat Ahmadas was Mirza Din Muhammad Sahib. This gentleman explained that Hazrat Ahmadas caught his eye as he observed the Promised Messiahas to religiously follow the Shariah and as someone who was persistent in “fasting and Salat”. (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p.16)
Din Muhammad Sahib would begin to accompany the Promised Messiahas on his trips to courts and observed him closely. He said that when they would go to Batala, the Promised Messiahas would purchase two rotis (Indian flat bread) and daal (lentils). He would eat one fourth of the roti by soaking it in water and would present the remaining rotis with the daal etc. to a poor man who was the caretaker.
Referring to his diet, Din Muhammad Sahib observed, “He [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas] would eat very little and had no particular zest for food.” (Ibid)
The humility, deep self-learning, agonising secluded search for God and love for Islam in British India was God’s upbringing for this spiritual son of His.
Up until his late twenties, the Promised Messiahas was in a cocoon at Qadian; his spirituality, piety and zeal for Islam unknown to the wider public, but this was about to change as his “time had come”.
Father and son; a hunt
Despite the temperament of Hazrat Ahmadas to steer clear of worldly pursuits, his father (who later accepted his son’s objectives in life as superior) would persistently try to convince his son to find a respectable career and be financially stable – something that was a constant battle. Regarding this tug-of-war like situation, the Promised Messiahas recalled:
“In short, he wished me to completely occupy myself with worldly affairs, which I could not do. Nevertheless, out of goodwill and in order to earn spiritual merit, but not for the sake of any worldly gain, I devoted myself to serving my father and for his sake, I occupied myself with worldly affairs and also supplicated for him. He believed fully that I was dutiful towards my parents …” (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, pp. 183-184)
Once, an English judge, who knew the Promised Messiah’sas father well, visited his home. Taking benefit of the opportunity, his father sent a man by the name of Jhanda Singh to fetch Hazrat Ahmadas and say to him that this English gentleman would be able to acquire a respectable job for him.
Describing the situation, Jhanda Singh explained:
“When I entered upon Mirza [Ghulam Ahmad] Sahib, I saw that he was surrounded by piles of books and was reading. I conveyed his father’s message to him. Mirza [Ghulam Ahmad] Sahib came out and said, ‘I have become a servant to whom I was destined to.’ In reply, his father asked whether he really had given his life elsewhere? Mirza [Ghulam Ahmad] Sahib said ‘Yes, I have’. To this, his father replied, ‘Alright, if you have become a servant [elsewhere] then that is fine.’” (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p.18)
The Promised Messiahas had reached his late twenties and scientists have confirmed that the last development of the brain is the frontal lobe that fully develops by 25 (Journal of Adolescent Health, September 2009). And so, any attempt to suggest that Hazrat Ahmadas was being reactionary to his father is false, rather he knew what he wanted in life and it certainly wasn’t a well sought-after career, that was within arms’ reach.
It had been almost 1,400 years since the Holy Prophetsa, the greatest servant of God Almighty, had appeared in the world. Now, the dawn of a new era of Islam was emerging and in British India, this young soul was chosen to be the new servant of Islam. His father, deep down, was content seeing his son devoted solely to Islam, but wanted no stone left unturned in ensuring his son had all possible opportunities to acquire a worldly career.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra interestingly painted the picture of the predicament between Hazrat Ahmadas and his father by saying that “they were out to hunt each other; the father desired to take hold of his son’s views and make him chase worldly prestige and the son wanted to free his father of the dangerous snare of the world and attach him to the love of Allah the Almighty.” (Seerat Masih-e-Maud, p. 14)
The Promised Messiah’sas father would even, at times, admit that “this son of mine is doing what is, in reality, most useful.” (Ibid)
His father, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, would often quote a couplet that his own father [the Promised Messiah’sas grandfather] wrote. The couplet was an acceptance of defeat by the Promised Messiah’sas father about their diverse outlooks on life and indicated that chasing the world only results in grief:
کہ جب تدبیر کرتا ہوں تو پھر تقدیر ہنستی ہے
“Whenever I set to plan, it is then that decree begins to laugh.” (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khazain, vol. 13, p.190)
Before his demise, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, the Promised Messiah’sas father, looked back on his life in regret due to his worldly pursuits. As a result, he willed that after his demise, a mosque should be built and within its proximity, his body buried, so that “my ears constantly hear Allah’s name”. (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, p.191)
“It is prison”: Working in Sialkot
The Holy Prophetsa lived and worked as a trader before God commissioned him with Islam. Though he spent great time in solitude and prayer, it was during his working life that the wider public became well acquainted with the Prophet’ssa qualities of truthfulness, honesty and fairness. After all, Hazrat Khadijara, a successful and respected businesswoman, sent a proposal of marriage to the 25-year-old Muhammadsa after hearing of his great ethics and morals following a trade tour that Muhammadsa led for her to Syria. (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophetssa Vol. 1, pp. 147-148)
The Holy Quran displays similar narratives with other prophets. Prophet Mosesas was described by a lady to her father in the following words: “O my father, hire him; for the best man that thou canst hire is the one who is strong and trustworthy.” (Surah al-Qasas, Ch.28: V.27)
The spiritual insight, talent and ability of Prophet Josephas impressed the King of Egypt, who addressed Prophet Josephas by saying, “Thou art this day [a man]of established position [and] trust with us” (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.55). In fact, the king appointed Prophet Josephas as the national treasurer as he was “a good keeper [and] possessed of knowledge.” (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.56)
God positions prophets within the general populace so that they can better observe the qualities of the prophet; this was the case with Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas as well.
In turn, while living and working amongst people of the world, prophets are exposed to the ills of society and the distance people toil to gain worldly pleasure.
Around 1864, the Promised Messiah’sas father urged his son to go to Sialkot, Punjab to work at a court for the government.
There is still some research to be done about the exact date the Promised Messiahas went to Sialkot to work. The consensus in Jamaat literature is 1864, however the Promised Messiahas, in Lecture Sialkot, states that he spent “approximately seven years” in Sialkot (Lecture Sialkot, p.243). Further, some narrations in Seerat-ul-Mahdi support this and indicate that he spent more than four years in Sialkot and went in 1863. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 2, p. 178)
Nonetheless, out of sheer respect for his father and to uphold Quranic injunctions of obedience toward parents, the Promised Messiahas agreed to work in Sialkot, where he resided. At the time, he was in his late twenties and his beard had not fully formed yet. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, p. 594)
The Promised Messiahas worked in various capacities in Sialkot, mostly working in the Ahlmad department that was responsible for logging cases and file keeping etc. (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, p.82-83)
One narration indicates that the Promised Messiahas was also the “deputy sheriff” at the court (not in the policing department, but a role in the court. Research is needed in regard to this post). (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 2, p. 178)
Sialkot was where, for the first time, the young and passionate Ahmadas developed some recognition amongst the locals because of his piety, knowledge, humanity and defence of Islam against Christian missionaries.
Dealing with multiple landlords, living at different locations, meeting a range of people and working at the courts, Hazrat Ahmadsa soaked up the nature of mankind and ills of society. At the same time, these people had begun to take notice of this foreign young man who had come to their city to work, but was miles apart from others.
Discussing his experience in engaging with wider society, the Promised Messiahas later noted, “From that experience, I realised that most people who are engrossed in worldly careers live an immoral life. There are very few who are vigilant over their prayers and worship and who are able to protect themselves from the prohibited pleasures that confront them.”
He noted how most people only toiled for this “short life” merely to “gain worldly success”. The absence of high morals like “humility”, “humanity”, “forgiveness” and “truthfulness” was absent and ills of “arrogance”, “carelessness of faith” and “misconduct” was rife, the Promised Messiahas said. (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p.19)
Why would Allah place a prophet of God in such an atmosphere, you may ask. The answer has been given by the Promised Messiahas: “Allah the Almighty’s wisdom was that He wanted me to experience every type of person and for this reason, I had to stay in every kind of company”. (Ibid)
Though Allah wanted the young Ahmadas to experience how people really were, the Promised Messiahas despised the environment he was trapped in.
Once, his dear mother sent him some specially tailored clothes. The person who came to deliver the clothes was called Hajjam Hayat, to whom the Promised Messiahas gifted some of those new garments. Hajjam asked the Promised Messiahas whether he was liking the work. The reply he received was, “It is prison”. (Ibid)
Nevertheless, the young Ahmadas spent a special time of his life in Sialkot, outside of his daily work at the courts. Describing his stay in the city, he writes:
“… those were sweet times for me because I enjoyed solitude among the multitude and I was a unity in diversity. I lived in the city like a dweller in the wilderness. I love Sialkot as I love Qadian because some of my early years were spent there and I walked around a great deal in the streets of the city.” (Lecture Sialkot [English translation] pp.61-62)
An exemplary employee
Despite being averse to spending his days dealing with disputes at the court, Hazrat Ahmadas was a man of principle and worked hard, completing all his tasks with integrity and responsibility. (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, p. 82)
The locals of Sialkot were not acquainted with Hazrat Ahmad’sas intellectual prowess, but this was about to change, especially for the Christian missionaries.
Once, when Hazrat Ahmadas had just arrived in Sialkot, the deputy commissioner of Sialkot needed to interview an Arab, who they speculated to be a spy. There was no one who could speak and read Arabic fluently, so they called Hazrat Ahmadas and asked him to translate for them. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p.140)
After carrying out the task in Arabic, naturally, the intellectual circles began recognising this young man in their town.
One aspect that must be remembered is that the level of education within the general populace was very low in British India. The Promised Messiah’sas proficiency in Arabic at the time was not of such a high standard as it would reach later on, rather he was more educated than the average level. His deep understanding of Arabic was most adorned when Allah revealed 40,000 words of Arabic to him later in life.
As English was the governmental language, the Promised Messiahas took some very brief and basic lessons in English while in Sialkot, but he did not pursue English any further. He most probably learnt only the alphabet and how to read some short words. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 144)
In a narration, it is said that the Promised Messiahas could, with difficulty, make out the words “red” and “blue” from a certain place. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p.144)
Allah did not desire for the Promised Messiahas to learn English, rather Allah wanted his community to partake in the blessings of tabligh and spread his message in English. Later, the Promised Messiahas said that had Allah taught him English, he would have gone door-to-door preaching in England, but this was destined for members of his community.
Syed Mir Hassan Sahib, another person who closely observed the Promised Messiahas while in Sialkot, spoke of how the Promised Messiahas rejected a great job opportunity on the grounds of morality. He writes:
“In those days, Punjab University was newly established and they required a teacher for Arabic. The role would pay 100 rupees a month. I suggested to him [the Promised Messiahas] to apply for the job as ‘your proficiency in Arabic is very good. You will most definitely get the role’. In reply, he [the Promised Messiahas] said, ‘I do not like teaching as most people learn [from a teacher] and then go on to be involved in delinquency and wrongdoing. They use knowledge as a means and tool for illegal activity. I am afraid of the warning within the Quranic verse:
اُحۡشُرُوا الَّذِیۡنَ ظَلَمُوۡا وَ اَزۡوَاجَہُمۡ وَ مَا کَانُوۡا یَعۡبُدُوۡنَ
[“(And it will be said to the angels) ‘Assemble those who acted wrongfully, along with their companions, and what they used to worship.’” (Surah al-Saaffaat, Ch.37: V.23)](Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, pp. 142-143)
This incident alone magnifies the deep and profound moral compass Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas navigated with from a young age. His response may seem punitive to some, but it only indicates how he traversed, with great care, on the narrow path of righteousness and pleasing Allah.
The Promised Messiahas was also subjugated to discrimination, even at his office, by a superintendent of the Sialkot offices, Pundit Sehj Ram. This wretched man took aim at Hazrat Ahmadas, not only because he was his subordinate, but also because Hazrat Ahmadas was a Muslim. Sehj Ram spew malice against Islam and its Holy Foundersa and spoke ill of the two in front of Hazrat Ahmadas. (Haqiqatul Wahi, Ruhani Khazain Vol. 22, p. 309)
Not caring for his job, the Promised Messiahas would stand up to Sehj Ram’s attacks on Islam and defend Islam and the Holy Prophetsa with utmost zeal and passion, while debating with him.
An old friend of his, Lala Bhim Sin, would advise the young Ahmadas not to reply lest his career was jeopardised, but this had no effect and the Promised Messiahas would always defend Islam and stand up to Sehj Ram’s attacks on his religion. These attacks and discrimination did not last for a few months, but throughout the years the Promised Messiahas stayed there. (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, p. 83)
The Promised Messiahas saw a vision that foretold the death of Sehj Ram. In the vision, he saw Sehj Ram “in black clothes, stopping in front of me like those who show humility and with his mouth open, as someone who asks for mercy to another. I said to him, now is not the time for mercy…” “The second or third day” the news was received that Sehj Ram suddenly died – a sudden and unexpected death for the public. (Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 22, p. 309)
After work hours – Study, prayers and humanity
Sialkot was a growing population and developing under the British Empire, who had made it a hub for Christian missionary activities. The Scotch Mission was established in Sialkot. As with all towns and cities, entertainment is readily available and opportunity to socialise, relax and enjoy oneself after work is not a difficult feat.
However, Ahmadas would maintain his self-study and worship, but also began to meet and sit with pious and holy men of Sialkot. His intellectual ability and knowledge came to surface in the debates and discourses he would enjoy with Christian missionaries, who would, with miserable failure, attempt to defame Islam and prove the superiority of Christianity in front of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas.
The homeowners who housed the Promised Messiahas in Sialkot later reported what his daily activities after work were. One family said it was famously known that when Hazrat Ahmadas would “return from court, after entering the front door, he would not turn around and close the door, lest his gaze fell on a woman in the street. Instead, he would first close the door, with his back to it, with his hands and then turn and lock the chain.” (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p. 20)
The same family noted that “apart from reciting the Holy Quran and performing long prostrations in Namaz, he had nothing else to do. He would write out Quranic verses and hang them on the walls, pondering over their meanings.” (Ibid)
At times, clients would try and visit him at home regarding their court cases, so he [the Promised Messiahas] would call a member of the family, Mian Fazl Din Sahib, and say, “Tell these people not to come here. They should neither waste their time, nor mine. I cannot do anything as I am not the judge. Whatever work I am assigned, I carry it out at court.” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 252 )
Syed Mir Hassan Sahib describes his after-work hours by saying that “after returning from court, he would be engrossed in reciting the Holy Quran, reading it while standing, sitting and walking. [As he recited the Quran] he would weep profusely. There is no parallel to the level of anguish he would experience while reciting [the Holy Quran].” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, pp. 251-252)
Yet another observer said that he would weep so much in his prostrations at home that “the floor would dampen”. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 595)
Helping the locals of Sialkot
Serving humanity was another passion of the young Ahmadas as service to humanity is half of faith, something he later preached also. Mir Hassan Sahib noted that Hazrat Ahmadas would visit the needy and “serve them”. Another narration by an observer elaborates, “Serving humanity was a huge passion of his. A small amount of the monthly earnings he took home from work was set aside for essentials and the rest was spent to buy widows and poor people some clothes or aid by giving them money.” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 595)
Most young adults are very proud of their hard-earned money, especially from their first job and, with great joy, they spend on personal pleasures and wants after the cheques begin to come in. But the lack of importance and desire to pursue the world can be observed in the above narration; the young Ahmadas would distribute his earnings to the poor and spend scarcely on himself.
A familial trait of the Promised Messiah’sas family was tib (natural medicine) and he too was well acquainted with the practice. In Sialkot, he dispensed medicine to those in need, free of charge, while also praying for them. (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, p. 20)
His prayers were the key to his successful treatment. One gentleman, Mian Buta Kashmiri, whose house the Promised Messiahas also lived at in Sialkot, said, “I see him as a walliullah [a saint who God holds dear]. Once, my father fell ill and all the doctors had given up, saying that he would die and that any further treatment would be a waste. We called Mirza Sahib. He prayed for my father and gave him some medicine. Allah the Almighty, through his prayers healed my father. Countless prayers he said for us were accepted.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, pp. 85-86)
Social circles and friends
The Promised Messiahas began to meet and sit with pious people and would actively take part in intellectual discussion and debates with Christian missionaries, but he would not waste time in useless sittings.
Lala Bhim Sin, a decent, intellectual man, who was also a lawyer, had known the Promised Messiahas from when they studied together in Batala. But in Sialkot, their friendship grew and remained until death did them apart. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra had noted that whenever the Promised Messiahas, after his claim to prophethood etc. needed money, he would often write to Bhim Sin for a loan, even though the Promised Messiahas had many companions and followers who he could have taken loans from. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p.139)
Though Lala Bhim Sin did not accept Islam Ahmadiyyat, he would continue to grow in his friendship with the Promised Messiahas and offer his assistance. (Ibid)
Syed Mir Hassan Sahib elaborated that the Promised Messiahas began living in a room that was by the central mosque of Sialkot. Close to his residence was a shop owned by an elderly and respectable man by the name of Fazl Din. In the evenings, small gatherings of decent men would convene at Fazl Din’s shop and Hazrat Ahmadas would also, at times, join these discussions.
Sometimes, a Christian missionary school’s headmaster called Nasrullah would also attend and the Promised Messiahas would usually engage in religious debates with him. “Those present would greatly enjoy the Promised Messiah’sas speeches.” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 253)
A pious and righteous holy man by the name of Maulvi Mahbub Alam Sahib lived in Sialkot and the Promised Messiahas would visit him. He would also greatly encourage Lala Bhim Sin to visit. While sitting with Mahbub Alam Sahib, “whenever the topic of Bai‘at [pledging allegiance] and following someone would come up, the Promised Messiahas would say that men should work hard and strive themselves [to attain spirituality] as Allah the Almighty says:
وَ الَّذِیۡنَ جَاہَدُوۡا فِیۡنَا لَنَہۡدِیَنَّہُمۡ سُبُلَنَا ؕ وَ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَمَعَ الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ
[And (as for)those who strive in Our path – We will surely guide them in Our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good]. Alam Sahib would become saddened by this and would say that without Bai‘at, there is no path.” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p.253)
Hazrat Ahmadas would either engage in intellectual discussions or sit with pious men.
In one such discussion, Mir Hassan Sahib spoke of a new commentary of some verses of the Holy Quran written by the then modern Islamic thinker, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Hazrat Ahmadas told Mir Hassan Sahib to bring a copy of the commentary the following day. When Hazrat Ahmadas read the commentary, he did not like it one bit. (Hayat-e-Tayyaba, pp. 24-25)
The Promised Messiahas saw Sir Syed Ahmad with admiration, but strongly disagreed with his liberal views of adapting Islam in light of so-called enlightenment. These views the Promised Messiahas evolved very early on and later, through his books, discredited the views of Sir Syed Ahmad, one such book being Blessings of Prayer.
The Promised Messiahas was still unknown in the wider scheme of things but Sialkot served as a “field” experience to what Allah had planned for him.
Now, we will discuss the debates and discourses Hazrat Ahmadas had with prominent Christian clergymen and how he defended Islam. We will look at how Allah protected the young Ahmadas in Sialkot and some prophecies he made while in the city.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, peace be upon him, was a spiritually charged youth who had an astounding passion to defend Islam. Though he desired not to work, his father, out of sympathy, sent him to Sialkot Punjab to work at a court. Even in Sialkot the young Ahmadas would continue his deep study of the Holy Quran and profusely worshiped God Almighty. At the same time, he made use of his time to sit with holy men and enjoy discussions about Islam; especially with Christian missionaries.
Defending Islam in British India: “Define salvation”
As the British Empire ruled India at the time and the mutiny of 1857 had transpired, the British Government saw Christianity as a means of cementing their rule throughout India. Christian missions and missionaries began sprouting across India and Sialkot was a hotbed for Christianity in the Punjab; the Scotch Mission being established in the city.
Historical evidence proves how Christian missionaries had planned to convert India to Christianity. Muslims were left helpless and speechless in front of Christian missionaries who would ask who was greater? Our prophet [Jesus] who is in the sky, or your prophet Muhammad, who is buried? Such devious questions would corner Muslims and they had no solace to turn towards.
The young Ahmadas could not bear the attacks from Christian missionaries on Islam and as God had given him spiritual and academic insight from a very young age, he was able to leave the missionaries themselves, speechless.
One such example was narrated by Syed Mir Hassan Sahib (a very famous Muslim scholar) who closely observed the Promised Messiahas as a young adult in Sialkot. In Life of Ahmadas, the narration is described in the following words:
“At Sialkot, Ahmadas came in touch with Christian missionaries. He held several debates with them. Elisha, a native Christian missionary, who lived to the south of Hajipura, once had a discussion with Ahmadas. He asserted that salvation was impossible outside the fold of Christianity. Ahmadas asked him to define the word ‘salvation’ and explain what he meant by it. The missionary failed to do so and concluded by saying that he had not studied logic.” (Life of Ahmad, A.R.Dard, p.48)
These conversations and debates would be frequent and Hazrat Ahmadas loved defending Islam and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. This was a taste, for the Christian missionaries, of what this champion of Islam was to bring to the table; his future debates, discussion and books would strongly disprove the fallacy of Pauline Christianity.
A prominent Christian missionary’s admiration and research by ARC
History has it that a Christian missionary of the Scotch Mission in Sialkot, by the name “Butler” would converse with Ahmadas and hugely admired him.
After Jamaat scholars from Pakistan flagged the possibility of the name “Butler” to have been misread, The Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre (ARC), after searching through the Scotch Mission’s historical records, corrected the human error of naming this missionary as “Butler”.
The name was actually “Taylor” but due to Urdu transcript, it seemed to have read as “Butler”.
Reverend Taylor had frequent debates and discussions with Hazrat Ahmadas and quickly became an admirer. Reverend Taylor was no ordinary missionary, rather he was very prominent and well respected amongst the Scotch Mission in Sialkot.
Despite this, he would often go meet Hazrat Ahmadas towards the end of working hours and walk with him from the court to Hazrat Ahmad’sas small room. Throughout, he would remain engaged in discussion and listen to Hazrat Ahmad’sas arguments with almost spell-bound attention. (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. I, pp.92-93)
In fact, other missionaries would tell Reverend Taylor not to spend so much time with him as it looked bad on their reputation and the mission’s. In response, Mr Taylor would say “this is a great man, you do not know his worth but I do.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. I, pp.93)
One discussion between Reverend Taylor and the Promised Messiahas was:
“Once he [Rev. Taylor] asserted that Jesusas was born of a virgin so that he might inherit no sin from Adamas. Ahmadas pointed out that Maryas had already inherited the sin, if there was any, and moreover, that as it was Eve who caused Adam’sas expulsion from paradise, Jesusas should have been born without a mother also in order to be sinless according to Christian beliefs. The missionary had no reply to this.” (Life of Ahmad, A.R.Dard, p.49)
Reverend Taylor liked Hazrat Ahmadas very much and always spoke to him with courtesy, reverence and respect. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, p.141)
Before returning to Great Britain, Reverend Taylor went to the court Hazrat Ahmadas was working at, for one last farewell. When he arrived at the court, the Deputy Commissioner asked Reverend Taylor as to what had brought him there, in reply he said I have come to meet Mirza Sahib as I am about to return to my country and want to meet him one last time.
Therefore, he met the Promised Messiahas who was sitting on the floor and sat down next to him and after meeting one last time, bade him farewell. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1 pp.141-142)
The Promised Messiah’sas manner of argumentation, from the onset, was extremely powerful yet eloquent, respectful and convincing. Another admirer was Mirza Murad Baig of Jullundur, the editor of the newspaper Wazir-e-Hind. He would often go meet Hazrat Ahmadas to hear his convincing arguments and would put before Ahmadas “objections raised by Christians against Islam”. Having learnt the answers, he would publish them in his own words through articles. Even when the Promised Messiahsa returned to Qadian, Mirza Baig would often visit to meet him. (Life of Ahmad, A.R.Dard, p.49)
The Holy Quran proves how Allah protects his prophets even from a young age; Prophet Abrahamas, as a youth, was protected from the fire, Prophet Josephas was saved as a child despite being thrown into a well, Prophet Mosesas was saved from the river by the most powerful man of the time and of course, the greatest Prophet, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was steered out of danger by God throughout childhood, even though he was a vulnerable orphan.
Allah’s treatment of Hazrat Ahmadas was no different, at every possible danger, not just after his claim, but during his childhood as well, Allah protected him and those around him from physical harm.
A famous and widely related incident was when Hazrat Ahmadas was sleeping in a room. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra narrated that Hazrat Amma Janra (the Promised Messiah’sas noble and respected wife) heard the incident herself from the Promised Messiahas, who said:
“Once during a journey, we spent the night at a house and slept on the second floor. There were about seven to eight other men in the room. When everyone went to sleep and some time had passed, I began to hear some creaking noises and I feared that the ceiling would collapse. I called at Mesta Baig who was next to me and told him that I feared the ceiling is about to collapse, in response he said that I was just overthinking as the property was newly built and had a new roof.”
The Promised Messiahas rested again but “after a short while the same fear encompassed me, and I raised this to my acquaintance again, but he gave a similar reply. I then, again, laid down but the same thought took over my heart with great intensity and I felt as if the beam was about to break.
“I sat up again from the worry and this time firmly said to my friend why he was not getting up when I was saying the roof is about to fall. At this he was compelled to get up and we awoke the others and I told everyone to immediately go downstairs and leave. The stairs were right next to the door, I stood under the door and everyone began to leave one by one.”
When everyone had evacuated, the Promised Messiahas would narrate that “then I took a step outside the door and my foot was probably half outside and half in the doorway when suddenly the whole roof collapsed. It fell with such force that the [ground floor] roof also collapsed and we saw that the charpays [beds] we were sleeping on were crushed to pieces.” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. I, pp. 6-7)
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra would narrate that during this incident there were some Hindus present in that room as well who were admirers of the Promised Miessiahas. Further, he said that the Promised Messiahsa when narrating the incident would note how the roof was just “waiting for me to leave”. (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. I, p.7)
While in Sialkot, God Almighty continued to protect this young adult in the most miraculous manner. The Promised Messiahas narrated that when he was residing in Sialkot, “one night it began to rain and the room I was sat inside was struck by lightning and the whole room went up in smoke, it began to smell like gunpowder, however we were not harmed at all.” (Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p.216)
At other times, Hazrat Ahmadas explained “once a dead scorpion was found wrapped in my bedding and at another instance a live scorpion crawling around was caught inside the bedding. At both instances God protected me from harm. Once my clothes caught fire and I was completely unaware, another man saw it and told me and put the fire out.”
These two instances were not necessarily from Sialkot but were written in the diary of the Promised Messiahas. (Seerat-ul Mahdi, Vol. I, p.217)
A call from his beloved father
As detailed in Part I of “A Prophet in the making”, Hazrat Ahmadas did not share his father’s desire for his son to go and work and achieve a respectable (worldly) career. He hugely respected his father and went to Sialkot in obedience, but he was clear in his views of serving God and Islam to his father.
In 1868, his father finally sent a message to Hazrat Ahmadas and called him back to Qadian. The Promised Messiahas explained the reason in the following words:
“In the end, as my father found our distance [from each other] difficult, on his instruction, that was also my own desire, I resigned from this job that was against my own nature and became free of this burden. I then presented myself to my father…” (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khazain, pp.184-185)
It is crucial to note the level of obedience the Promised Messiahas held towards his father even in his late twenties. Most adults see themselves as exclusively independent in life decisions from their parents. However, despite his deep aversion to work at the courts, the Promised Messiahas did not leave Sialkot until his father allowed him to.
This level of obedience towards parents shows how closely and carefully the Promised Messiahas, from a young age, followed the Holy Quran and its injunctions.
A mother’s longing to see her son
Sadly, when the instruction from his father to resign and return to Qadian was sent, Hazrat Ahmad’sas beloved mother had fallen critically ill. His mother had a close connection with him and was a shield throughout his life but now, during the years apart, she had fallen ill while her beloved son was returning home. Hayat-e-Tayiba notes that Hazrat Ahmad’sas mother, who was ill, most probably had asked her husband to call the young Ahmadas back home due to her deep longing to see her son. (Hayat-e-Tayiba, p.27)
During the journey back from Sialkot to Qadian, when Hazrat Ahmadas reached Amritsar, a man from Qadian had come to collect him.
“This man told the driver of the stagecoach to hurry back [to Qadian]. His [Hazrat Ahmad’sas] mother was in critical condition. The man, after some time said, ‘she was very weak, hurry, I hope she hasn’t passed away’. When Hazrat Ahmadas heard this, he was sure that his mother had passed away.” (Hayat-e-Tayiba, p.27)
When they reached Qadian, his estimation was proven correct; his dear mother had passed away and became the beloved of God.
“Verily to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.”
“Though he was deeply hurt by the demise of his beloved mother, he bore this huge grief with great patience.” (Ibid)
A son’s tears for his dear mother
Hazrat Ahmad’sas mother, Hazrat Chiragh Bibi, always took great care of her son’s needs and served him at every occasion. She had a special place in her heart for Hazrat Ahmadas as she was witness to his righteousness, piety and purity. (Ibid)
The love that Hazrat Ahmadas had for his dear mother was apparent even aft er her demise. Whenever, after her demise, she would be mentioned, his eyes would swell up. One incident of this was described by Hazrat Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfanira who narrated that “once the Promised Messiahas while taking a walk, went to an old family graveyard. Moving aside, with great emotion the Promised Messiahas moved towards the grave of his mother and, along with all those present, prayed for a long time and his eyes became full of tears.” (Ibid)
A youngster set to change the world
Hazrat Ahmad’sas father passed away not long after. Now, without the love of his parents in this world, the young Ahmadas sustained his service for Islam and continuously grew with The One, Who’s love is the truest; Allah the Almighty. The youth years of Hazrat Ahmadas prove how Allah had taken special care of this young adult who was destined to revive Islam and serve as the spiritual second coming of the Holy Prophetsa; a Prophet in the making.
We leave you with the words of Maulana Syed Mir Hassan Sahib, who later became a very well-respected scholar and closely observed the young Hazrat Ahmadas in Sialkot:
[While in tears] he said “It is with great regret that we took him for granted. I cannot explain his perfect spiritual attributes, his life was not of an ordinary person. Rather, he was from those who are the special elect of God and who scarcely come to the world.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. I, p.95)